The History of the Foxtrot
September 30, 2016
When we discuss the basics of ballroom dancing, we often fall back on two of its staple styles – the foxtrot and the waltz. Today we are going to take a closer look at the foxtrot – a smooth, progressive dance characterized by its slow step, and long, sinuous movements.
Named for its creator, vaudeville entertainer Harry Fox, the foxtrot made its debut in 1914. Born Arthur Carrington in 1882, Harry Fox was the classic vaudeville performer. He was a comedian, as well as an actor and dancer who also made some of the earlier “talking pictures” of the late 1920s. He died in 1959, but he left us quite a legacy.
The first freestyle use of the (pre-Foxtrot) “slow step” was popularized in 1912, during ragtime music’s heyday. This changed marked the beginning of a completely new phase of ballroom dancing, once where dance partners were much closer together and often ad-libbed to this new and exhilarating style of music. Prior to this period, the Polka, Waltz and the One-Step were the popular dances, and partners were at arm’s length and a set pattern of choreography was strictly observed. The Foxtrot took on the form we generally see today when the famed dance couple, Vernon and Irene Castle, became enamored of it and made its lines smoother and even more sensual. In fact, the Foxtrot helped the couple reach the peak of their popularity
in Irving Berlin‘s first Broadway show, Watch Your Step (1914), in which they refined and popularized the Foxtrot.
By 1915, new and melodic “pop” songs were the smash hits of the day. The dancing public quickly made the change to a smoother, more rhythmic style of music, and their dancing began to absorb the better attributes of the older dances. From 1917 up to present day, the accent has been placed on smoother, more sophisticated dancing and individualized expression, most figures are designed for the larger ballroom floor. However, these same figures are also suited to the average dance floor when danced more compactly.
Today, there are several styles of Foxtrot:
- American Social Foxtrot – seen most widely at dance events, social parties, etc., the American style allows for complete freedom of expression, utilizing various dance holds and positions
- International Foxtrot – one of the five Standard dances that form the backbone of International Style Dance competitions held around the world under the auspices of the International Dance Sport Federation, its local affiliates, and other organizations. By 1960, the International style of dancing had made its way into U.S. ballrooms and many of the techniques became integrated into the American style Foxtrot. The main distinction of International style Foxtrot is that it is danced entirely in contact, maintaining the normal dance hold.
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we’re Foxtrot experts and can offer you the finest in ballroom dance instruction – both private lessons and group classes. Click here to read more on the Foxtrot and see a demonstration video. And if Foxtrot isn’t your favorite, we also teach nearly any other type of partner dance you can think of (rumba, salsa, Paso Doble, tango, to name just a few). So get started on your personal dance journey today – contact us at Fred Astaire Dance Studios.